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Gowalla is Going to Facebook

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Three years ago Gowalla’s journey began when I took a photograph of Lake Tahoe on my iPhone. I had just finished a phone call with my dad, and I wanted nothing more than to share that photo and place with him. Not just in a text message or status update sort of way, but with a bit of weight that said “I wish you were here” and “this moment and place are meaningful to me.”

We created Gowalla to inspire people to go out and share those places, photos and stories. The past three years have been quite the journey, oft-times in a very literal sense!

The Gowalla Passport has become a record of all the places we’ve visited, the people we were with, the photos we took, and the stories we told. Many of you even use Gowalla like a scrapbook of sorts — a place to keep all those memories.

About two months ago, my co-founder Scott and I attended F8. We were blown away by Facebook’s new developments. A few weeks later Facebook called, and it became clear that the way for our team to have the biggest impact was to work together. So we’re excited to announce that we’ll be making the journey to California to join Facebook!

Gowalla, as a service, will be winding down at the end of January. We plan to provide an easy way to export your Passport data, your Stamp and Pin data (along with your legacy Item data), and your photos as well. Facebook is not acquiring Gowalla’s user data.

We know how much many of you loved Gowalla. It’s been the highlight of our lives as we’ve built it with your help over the past two years. As we move forward, we hope some of the inspiration behind Gowalla — a fun and beautiful way to share your journey on the go — will live on at Facebook.

We’re so very grateful for the support of our community, our investors, our families, and, of course, the City of Austin as well. You’ve all played a special role in seeing us to this day.

Posted 2 years ago by firewheel

The Men of Mo-Walla

Today marks the start of Movember (formerly known as November), the month where men are encouraged to grow moustaches to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. 

Here at Gowalla, we’ve put together a dedicated Movember team to help drive awareness. Several of us in the office have been affected by cancer in some way or another this year, and we’re eager to help however we can. 

It remains to be seen whether our Mo-Walla men will grow a super mario 'stache, a zappa, or just a good ol’ fashioned handlebar; frankly, we’ll be happy if some of the guys can even grow any facial hair. Luckily, they have a Mo-mentor in Jonathan who spends countless hours manicuring his own glorious beard (see proof below) which will be shaved off today. 

Anyone else joining in? Whether you start your own Movember team, donate to the cause, or even just get regular checkups, please consider supporting Movember. We’d love to hear from you if you are. Here are some of the guys from the Mo-Walla team.

Posted 2 years ago by piaav

Discovering Spooky Spots

If insanely scary movies, haunted houses, and terrifying books are your thing, then you’re probably someone who isn’t afraid to grab a flashlight and some friends to go on the most frightening adventures. 

Our community has done a wonderful job of creating Lists that’ll take you on a tour of the spookiest places this Halloween. Here are just a few favorites: 

There are many more, and some promise to give you a real scare. Disclaimer: we’re not responsible for any sleepless nights. 

For those seeking a different type of thrill, you can discover the best a city has to offer by exploring featured Lists. Just go to that that city’s Guide and look for the Featured Lists to the right. Learn about hotspots ranging from Denver’s Mile High History to the best microbreweries in Denmark. 

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to create a List to share with all your friends, we’ve got you covered on the web and your iPhone or Android device. To create a List from the web, simply sign in, look for your spots via the universal search field in the site header, and click the “List” button (found next to the “Love” button). You can choose which pre-existing List you would like to add that spot to, or you can create a new List on the fly. If you’re on your mobile device, after you find your spot, click the blue “+” button near the comment section, and add it to your preferred List. 

We look forward to going places you’ve featured on your Lists and to discovering the world with you.

Posted 2 years ago by piaav

Gowalla Guides: Your Curated City Experience

Whenever I go somewhere new—or whenever I go somewhere not-new, but don’t want to do the same old thing I’ve done a million times—I wish I’d had the foresight to figure out my plans in advance: you know, researched a local place to get a cup of coffee so that I didn’t have to join the masses at Starbucks, for instance. Emailed a friend to nail down, once and for all, where I might find that slice of pizza that’ll change my life. Investigated the likelihood of finding a kilt on short notice in a city I’m unfamiliar with, perhaps. (Don’t ask questions about that last one. Sometimes you just need an emergency kilt.) 

That’s why, at Gowalla, we’re working on putting together some carefully curated lists in some of our top cities, packed with ideas and suggestions from us to you. Right now, we’ve got over 60 City Guides, with specially-curated Gowalla content in San Francisco, Austin, New York, Chicago, Portland, London, and Stockholm. (Just look for the Featured Lists created by yours truly.) In the next few weeks, we’ll have curated Gowalla content up and running in Paris, Amsterdam, and Washington, D.C. too. 


But what’s in these Guides, you ask? Well, we’ve tried to do the dirty work for you. We’ve narrowed down, in each city, some of the best things to do in a specific category. So if you’re in San Francisco and you’re suddenly struck with the urge to pretend you’re British, we’ve got you covered with the best places to stock up on Marmite and dance to Blur. When you want to hang with the Williamsburg hipsters in New York, we’ll show you where to get your ironic mustache on.  And no-one’s going to judge if you want to embrace your English major roots in London with a tour of literary landmarks. A+ for effort! Your Chaucer professor would be proud. 

So start exploring! The best barbecue in Austin, the best comedy clubs in Chicago, the best food carts in Portland, and the best museums in Stockholm are all waiting for you to discover them.

And tell us: which city would you like to see curated Gowalla Guides in next? 

Posted 2 years ago by hollyburns

The Unexpected Story

Our days are made up of stories. Perhaps not every day, and certainly not every moment of every day, but often enough, there is a story either driving or unfolding out of where we happen to be.

Once you realize that a story is simply an equation of “Where are you and what’s going on?”, you’ll see that a story can happen anywhere— not only when we’re out with friends at parties and restaurants or while traveling. Something doesn’t need to be an Ansel Adams to be a photograph worth taking, and in that vein, something doesn’t need to be “Anna Karenina” in order to be a story worth sharing. For example:

-You’re at the gas station to fill up the car. Not much of a story there, right? But maybe your gas light went off 10 miles ago and this was the only station you’d been able to find, and the whole time you kept panicking about the car suddenly dying on you, and THEN the low-battery alert went off on your phone! It’s not going to get you on the New York Times best-seller list, but it’s something your friends would surely find amusing.

-You’re out on your daily walk through the park when you discover a trail you’ve never seen before. Curiosity leads you down this mysterious path, where you find tree branches twisted in artistic spirals and haphazard blooms of vibrant flowers and a colony of ladybugs that’s vaguely creepy. Doesn’t that sound like something you could preface with: “Guys, guess what I found today!”

And no matter where you are or whether or not you’re by yourself, when you find yourself with a story to tell, Gowalla can help you record it and share it with others.

To create a story in Gowalla, simply navigate to the “Friends” screen and tap the green “New” button in the top right corner. (On Android, tap the “Where are you / Change” prompt). You’ll see a list of all the spots around you—if not, you can search for your venue, and if you still don’t see it, you’ll then have the option to add it.

If you do happen to be out with friends (who have either a Gowalla or Facebook account), after you establish where you are, you’ll be able to include these friends in your story. The major upsides of this are:

1) You can all make one person be the designated checker-inner. No more waiting while everyone fusses with their phones!

2) Content becomes unified. You’re all part of the same story, so why should everyone’s photos and comments be separated by individual check-ins? (They shouldn’t.) As soon as someone joins a story, they’ll be able to contribute to it, and that same single story is included in everyone’s Passport.

3) Even friends of friends can easily become a part of your story’s record. Or people who become friends after the fact! There isn’t a time limit to when friends can join or be added to a story, or furthermore, to when photos can be added. (This is especially handy when you’ve been taking so many pictures that your phone approaches death.)

And finally, you’ll have the option of sharing your story on Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare every time you add a comment or upload a photo (or on Android, anytime after the story’s creation).

Here at Gowalla, our passion is to inspire people to discover the interesting places around them—but truly, what makes a place special are both the stories that have happened there and the stories that are waiting in the wings (great service, food, drinks, and atmosphere are all excellent ingredients for these!)

Where will your next story be?

Posted 3 years ago by piaav

Your Adventures With Tintin


One of the most exciting opportunities that we have here at Gowalla is when we get the chance to be a part of a great story—whether it’s as an observer or as an active participant. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been lucky enough to meet some of you, the world’s best storytellers. Today though, we want to introduce you to a guy who has been telling amazing stories and going on epic adventures for more than 80 years: Tintin.

Between now and the end of the year, the long-awaited Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson movie The Adventures of Tintin The Secret of the Unicorn will be coming to a theater near you. But starting today, Tintin is available to be a part of the best stories that you’re telling with Gowalla. Want to include him in your fun? The next time you start a story on Gowalla, just add Tintin when filling out “Who’s With You?" All of the stories from around the world that feature him will be shared in Tintin’s Passport, and the best ones will be highlighted by Sony Pictures across their social media. And as if that weren’t enough, the first time you tell a story with Tintin, you could be entered to win some incredible prizes.

So the only question is this: where are you going to take Tintin first?

Posted 3 years ago by andyellwood

Welcome Home Zuri Birk!

On Monday night, Gowalla’s very own Sherry Birk brought home her 9 month old daughter from Ethiopia. It was a homecoming that was a long time in the works. 

Sherry started the adoption process more than a year ago in June 2010, and finally received a referral—and a picture of her new baby daughter, Zuri—in January 2011.  In May, she travelled to Africa to meet Zuri for the first time, returning with photos, stories and a heartfelt desire to bring home her baby girl. All of us here are Gowalla were anxious to meet Zuri too, but we passed the time by pestering Sherry for updates and hosting a Happy Hour for a Cause at The Belmont in Austin. (Which, sadly, has recently closed. Pour one out for the Belmont!) 

On September 5th, Sherry received embassy approval to pick up Zuri, made travel plans with her excursion buddy Paige, and headed to Ethiopia. In the days after their departure, we followed, commented and “loved” Sherry and Paige’s photo-filled stories on Gowalla.

This Monday, Sherry at last returned to Austin with baby Zuri in tow, and we were finally able to start a story of our own with them. Here it is. 

Posted 3 years ago by ashleycass

Thanks For Your Feedback (yes, even for the stuff you wrote in ALL CAPS)

Two days ago we released Gowalla 4 for all of our friends around the world. For those keeping score at home, the last 24-hours have been a bit rough for some of you, and we’ve been following the dialog in the comment feeds, on Twitter, etc. I’ve personally been trying to reply to as many of you as possible on the Twitters. Sadly, I’ve missed a bunch, and I’m still trying to juggle catching up on some sleep from the past week!

But… all that said, most of the critical feedback seems to be falling down a couple paths. So I wanted to dive into the major ones, one at a time.

Crashiness!

The first 4.0 release contained a bug that was causing Gowalla to crash on load for iOS 4.2 users. Which basically meant everyone on Verizon was getting screwed. Totally sucks. We feel horrible for missing this one, and we’re sad it slipped through. It has been fixed, and the current 4.0.1 available in the iTunes store is working for 4.2 users now.

Unfortunately there is also another, similar bug, that is causing Gowalla to crash on load for a much smaller percentage of iOS 4.3 and 5.0 beta users. Inasmuch as these are the same versions of the OS we use ourselves, we’re having difficulty isolating this issue. Gratefully it’s effecting a much smaller number of you, but this is currently our number one priority. I think we’ve got a fix on it, and a 4.0.2 should be whisking its way to you shortly.

Of course, with any new app there’s going to be a few other errant crashes, but the two above have been our headaches, and the rest we should squash in the next couple of weeks.

WTF, Where Are My Spots?! My stamps?!

Many of you have noted that you’re having difficulty browsing nearby spots to see what’s cool closely, regardless of whether or not your within one of our city guides. That’s what we designed our “Nearby Guide” for. It’s located right above the Postcards for the featured guides close to you.

Sadly, somehow right before release, we removed the ability to actually browse those nearby spots, and it simply shows you 20 or so high profile spots with no way to browse by category, search or simply see what looks good around the corner.

FAIL.

It actually works really well on Gowalla for Android. But since about 65 percent of our users are iPhone users and many of you live outside our guide cites, you’re getting a crappy experience right now. This is our number two issue after the crashes above. You can expect a fix shortly, and we sincerely apologize for the hiccup here.

For many of our beloved street team, you’ve added and curated millions of spots for us around the world. Don’t worry. They’re not gone. And you’re still credited! They’re just not showing up as intended. Again, ride with us for a few days and we’ll have this remedied.

For those looking for your Stamps, they’re under the About section on your Passport. Full pagination and a Total Count number will be added back soon.

Where Are My Items?!

Last month we announced that we would be removing items from Gowalla with this release. It’s a bittersweet decision for us, but as you’ll note from this blog post, only about 2 percent of our active users engage with the feature, with only about half a percent of you engaging with it on a regular (i.e., weekly) basis. While we loved the feature, it was a complicated one to maintain given the relative lack of use.

That said, we knew this would be a big change for some of our most passionate fans. And we’ve certainly heard from you over the last 48 hours.

In the next couple of weeks we’re going to provide you all with a creative way to download or otherwise, uh, how do I say this without giving it away… Remember your collection of items from Gowalla.

I know that many of you will still not like this decision. It was a difficult one for us to make, given the circumstances.

How On Earth Do I Check In?!

Okay, so this is a fun one. Check-ins are basically gone. In many ways they’ve now been replaced by your Stories feed. We realize the user interface for created a new story is still a little bit jarring if you’re used to checking in. Tapping New Story asks you where you are, who you’re with, and then makes it easy to quickly add photos to your story.

Two big complaints we’ve heard are:

1) You don’t like that it takes an extra step to push to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.

2) You don’t know if it worked when you created a new story.

We hear you loud and clear, and we’re working to make this flow a little bit cleaner. This is priority three for us now. The move from check-ins to stories is definitely a shift for us, but once you get the hang of it, capturing an awesome event like this one at Oakland’s Real Eats Festival is pretty magical.

Gowalla Committed Startup Suicide!

This has been a week filled with crazy bold moves by some of the world’s most loved tech companies. Netflix spun out their DVD business. Facebook re-invented their profile pages (again!). Instagram also launched a very bold 2.0 product.

With this update to Gowalla, we wanted to create something boldly remarkable that moved our vision of social and location aware services forward. We knew we wouldn’t get everything right out of the gate, but we wanted to get it out the door so people could begin playing with it.

Some have asked why certain parts of the app aren’t quite as polished as Gowalla 3 was.

Well, we could have spent another 4 weeks polishing the rough visual edges only to launch and find out that the app crashes on Verizon iPhones… that people can’t find nearby places, or their stamps, or their items… or that our flow for adding new stories still needs some improvement (apart from visual flourish).

In short, we’d been developing in secret long enough. It was time to get it live and have you help us put the shine on this vision together.

My hope is that you can squint a little through the pain of losing a version of Gowalla that many of you loved in order to see something truly unique and remarkable that we can build together now.

Yesterday I started taking questions from our community on Formspring and over the next week or so I’m going to do my best to answer them all to the best of my ability. Feel free to ask away. With your help, in about 2-3 weeks, we should be smooth sailing with Gowalla 4. Thanks again for your passion for our product. We couldn’t do this without you.

Posted 3 years ago by firewheel

Day One!

Yesterday we turned the page on a new chapter for Gowalla. For our fans keeping score out there, the reaction has ranged from “The new Gowalla is the best thing ever!” to “I absolutely and utterly hate the new Gowalla with a passion reserved for spammers and ambulance chasers!” I’m happy to say that the positive refrain has far outweighed the negative, but I wanted to take a moment one day in to follow up on the launch and provide a bit more personal color on what we believe is a truly delightful leap forward for Gowalla.

Gowalla was born out of desire to inspire, well… ourselves, really, to go out and explore the world through the eyes of others. It’s led us to make friends in the far corners of the globe and on a personal level has brought me an incredible amount of joy as I’ve gotten to know many of you — our fans — over the past couple of years. It blows my mind to open up our new Guide to Mecca and find so many people using Gowalla to share the places they love.

We began the process of creating the new Gowalla about 5 or 6 months ago. In the grand schemes of things, that’s a short period of time. We’re still a smallish, 30-person team, and coordinating the development of mobile apps for iPhone and Android, along with an entirely new website, was a challenge. It’s a lot of moving parts, and the talented people I get to work with every day deserve a hearty slow clap for their tireless work over the past several months. I simply cannot say enough great things about the team I work with.

It’s been difficult working on much of this project in silence, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have it out in the wild. As some of you know, there have been a few bumps (like a crashy app on iOS 4.2 and some bugs that were preventing folks from logging into our new website). We’ve been working quickly to sweep up any dust and clear out any cobwebs. And we’re grateful for your patience along the way.

It’s important to point out that while on paper this is our 4.0 release, enough has changed with our codebase that you really could consider this a 1.0 release. And there is still a handful of features large and small that didn’t quite make it into the 1.0 release due to our schedule — but they’ll be coming quickly over the next few weeks, along with the usual performance enhancements and bug fixes.

One big feature missing from our mobile apps in 1.0 is your feed of non-story activity. This running list of loved stories, places and photos is one of my favorite things on our website. This, along with our full notifications tray, will make it into 4.1, coming soon. It’s the lifeblood of activity in Gowalla.

We also have some savvy UI improvements coming to our Guides. While we’re beyond happy with our Guides, some simple activities like search, and browsing by category and highlight are a bit more obscure than we had hoped for in our 1.0 release. This is the other place you can expect to see some deft design improvements in the days to come — both our “Nearby” and city Guides.

Speaking of our city Guides, while we launched with 60 of them, there are already more on the way. Two of my favorite cities, Raleigh and Dublin, are definitely on the list.

But we need your help!

The places you love, list and highlight, along with the places you share stories and photos at help us determine where we should create our next batch of Guides. So if you’d like to see a Gowalla Guide for your city, you can help us by adding highlights and creating lists for your city (or campus or park or… well, you get the idea!).

Along those lines, many of you reading this are part of our street team. You’ve probably no doubt noticed that most of our street team features (editing and merging our spot database, for example) are AWOL at the moment. Don’t worry, they’re coming back in the next couple of weeks too. So much time, so little to do. :)

And finally, many of you who—like us—loved collecting your items on Gowalla will recall that we said a few weeks back that we’d be opening up that data for your item collection. This is still planned and we have a couple of ideas on how we want to make this special. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag yet, but I think you’ll like what we’re thinking up here.

Thank you for all of your incredible enthusiasm and feedback for our product. We never imagined the fabulous response we’ve received. I’m already so stoked about seeing a new batch of quite lovely stories, filled with friends and photos making their way through Gowalla. Please keep sending in your feedback. We’re excited to be writing this next chapter of Gowalla with you!

Posted 3 years ago by firewheel

A New Gowalla

Nearly three years ago I sat on a beach at Lake Tahoe and watched as a large low-flying cloud hung above the lake, creating the backdrop for a beautiful weekend of solitude. As much as I enjoyed the time alone to clear my thoughts, I was overwhelmed with the desire to share this experience with someone. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a pic. Then I texted it to my dad. It was an oddly modern form of postcard. A way to briefly say “I wish you were here.”

The dream for Gowalla was born that moment.

Five months later our small team launched Gowalla with a vision to make sharing and discovering the world’s most-loved places a delight for you and your friends.

We’ve learned a lot in the last few years. Almost two million of you have joined us for this journey. You’ve visited almost every place of note in the world with Gowalla. You’ve photographed it, highlighted it and shared it, many of you checking in with reckless abandon.

You’ve given us new eyes to see the world around us through, and today we want to share what we’ve seen with you. And if all goes to plan, we’re going to share it with millions more as well.

Today, with an uncompromising vision to inspire the world to explore, we’re launching the next chapter for Gowalla — complete with new apps for iPhone and Android, along with an entirely reimagined experience on the web.

The cornerstone for this update is Gowalla’s new Social Guides. We’ve taken the best of what’s local, the places your friends love, and the recommendations from experts, rolled them all up, and have created the foundation for a collection of Social Guides to cities, parks and regions around the world — ready and at your fingertips with Gowalla.

We’re launching these new Guides in 60 cities today, featuring photos, highlights and experiences from your friends, locals and experts. Additionally, we’re thrilled to have joined forces with some of our favorite folks like Disney, National Geographic, the Austin American-Statesman (Texas, repruhsent!) and several others to launch over 20 additional guides to places like Walt Disney World® Resorts and a handful of the most lovely National Parks in the U.S.A.

The best part about all of this is that there is much more to come, and we need your help. 60 cities are a fine start, but we plan to crack 100 in short order with hundreds more to follow after that.

If your favorite cities aren’t in our launch collection, you can help us by creating highlights and lists for the places you love. Oh, and we’ve even given you a fancy new “Love” button than makes it easy to share the places you love most. Of course, we could have made this a “Like” button, but we’re a passionate folk. We don’t just want to know about places you like, we want to know about the places you *love*.

Your photos, highlights, lists and loves not only make our current Social Guides even better (we’re continuously updating and improving them with the help of our community), they also help us figure out where we should launch new Social Guides next.

We’re building a social atlas for the world. And we need your help to do it.

This is a big step forward for me and my team at Gowalla. We couldn’t be more excited. Once you dive in you’ll notice other changes, both big and small. For one, we’ve made it easier to discover and share Lists (we used to call these Trips, but since you were doing all sorts of crazy things with them, we broadened the name a bit to fit). Same goes for Highlights: they’re much easier to add and find now.

We’ve broadened our concept of “checking in” as well. We call them stories now. It’s easy to add friends to a story so you can add photos and comments together as a single experience. Eventually we’ll even bubble up the best stories within our guides, so you can relive all that was great about that film festival you’re going to (Fantastic Fest anyone?).

We’ve also made some subtle but welcome changes to our friendship model — opting to evolve it into a “follow” model, not unlike what many of you have used on other services like Twitter (oh hai, Facebook, and now you too). It’s now easy for me to keep up with the recommendations of that food blogger I admire without the awkwardness of us being “friends.” Of course, if we are friends and he follows me in return, then a few other features open up — for instance, adding each other to stories. And like before, you can take advantage of our Private account setting if you only wish to share your experiences with close friends and family.

Of course, the best way to get started with anything new is to simply dive in. Our new website is a great place to get going. Then be sure to grab the new Gowalla for iPhone or Android.

For those curious, existing Gowalla 3 clients will continue to work, though as always we’re grateful for your patience as we roll over to our new platform. There are likely to be some bugs and bumps over the next couple weeks.

Today marks a dramatic leap forward not only Gowalla, but for location-based and mobile services in general. We’re excited to have you go with us.

Posted 3 years ago by firewheel